Why mama shaming is the worst

World Breastfeeding Week runs annually from 1-7 August in about 170 countries. It is organised by WABA, WHO and UNICEF with the goal of promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. This leads to a huge range of health benefits for mother and child; providing critical nutrients, protection from diseases and fostering growth. You can read more about all the good stuff here and here

I'm going to be joining in on the celebrations in Perth, there is a train ride and picnic in Fremantle on Saturday the 6th of August and here are details of the event. Come along and bring your bubbas! 

There are two things on my mind about breastfeeding. I think that the health benefits have now been well promoted since the generations that believed formula was for the well-off and breast milk for the poor. The more I learn about breast milk, the more I am amazed by how cleverly a body can provide for a child. I love the hormonal interplay and bonding that happens, it can be a blessing for a mama to have this time to chill out with her babe. But there are some things I don't love.

I don't love the shaming that happens to mothers trying to breast feed in public. Feeding your child is a perfectly normal thing to do wherever you feel comfortable (not hiding in a grotty public toilet cubicle somewhere). There has been lots written about this in blogs and articles in print media and on the internet. I especially love this powerful spoken word piece.  

The other thing I don't love is, perhaps, a bit more contentious. I think there is an undercurrent of shaming that happens to mammas of bottle-fed babies by the mammas who breastfeed. Yes, the benefits of breastfeeding are wide ranging, but I think they have been publicised enough that people are now aware. I don't think that any kind of mama shaming is OK.  If a mother choses to bottle feed, she has her own reasons, and shouldn't be subjected to the "tut-tutt'ing" of other women. If a mama is formula feeding and you feel strongly about promoting breastfeeding, you could ask her for her story. She might have had a mastectomy, be on contraindicated medication, have a history or sexual trauma or have other reasons why she has chosen not to breastfeed. Listen to her, rather than jump in with "did you try... " She's probably heard it before. Everyone is on their own journey. You could ask how you might support her, rather than offer advice, raise an eyebrow or tut-tut under your breath.

I don't like any kind of shaming of mammas and their choices, it needs to stop.  

Either breast or bottle is fine in my book, each decision can be made by the individual for the individual. That being said, I feel useful as a postnatal doula in serving a woman who wants to breastfeed her child, but feels unsupported and could give up trying because it is all just too hard. Breastfeeding is a skill to be learnt. There is a great anecdote about increased breastfeeding rates in hospitals with temporary quarantines (and consequently, no visitors). In other words, less visitors means more time to learn to breastfeed. Like any other skill, breastfeeding takes practice. Some mammas breastfeed easily, some need a helping hand, and some physically can't or simply don't want to. It is all within the range of normal and it is all OK. 

If you are looking for more breastfeeding support, there is the Australian Breastfeeding Association or lactation consultants that you could work with to assist on your journey. If you are looking for bottle feeding support, there is Guilt Free Bottle Feeding with links and resources for bottle-feeding and mixed-feeding families. It is run independently of formula companies. 

Would you like someone in your corner as you nourish your newborn?